HIV Testing 101
Tomorrow, June 27th, is National HIV Testing Day, a day to remind people to learn about their risk and to get tested for HIV so they can know their status.
What is HIV?
HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. HIV is the virus that causes AIDS. HIV attacks the white blood cells in the body and makes it hard for a body to fight off infections. HIV is spread through contact with bodily fluids that contain HIV. The only fluids in the body that can spread HIV are blood, pre-ejaculatory fluid (or pre-cum), semen, vaginal fluid, and breast milk. Other bodily fluids such as spit, sweat, or tears do not carry HIV and cannot transmit HIV. HIV is not curable but there are medications available that someone can take if they have HIV to help them stay healthy.
How do you know if you have HIV?
Someone can have HIV for a long time before they have any symptoms. If someone does have symptoms, they include severe weight loss, fever, diarrhea, night sweets, or feeling tired. Because people don’t always have symptoms -- or the symptoms may look like a cold, flu, or some other illness -- the only way to know for sure if you have HIV is to get tested.
Who should get tested for HIV?
Everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 should get tested at least once and people with certain risk factors, like having a partner who has HIV or having tested positive for another STDs, should get tested every year. If you are sexually active or have ever had sex, you could be at risk for HIV. HIV can also be spread through contact with another person’s blood from things like sharing needles during a piercing, tattoo, vaccine, or other shot. In fact, anyone who wants to get tested or is curious about their HIV status should get tested.
How do I get tested?
HIV testing is free, easy, and CONFIDENTIAL! HIV tests are usually a blood test or a rapid cheek swab. If you get a rapid test, you will know your results within an hour, so you will leave your appointment knowing your results. If you get a non-rapid test, it could take a couple of days to get your results back. Different clinics offer different types of HIV tests. You can call a clinic to find out what types of tests they offer. To get tested, simply visit a clinic near you and let them know you want an HIV test! Some clinics or doctor may require an appointment to get tested and others may do testing on a walk-in basis. If you test positive, remember it is not the end of the world. Your doctor or health provider will help you make a plan for what to do next. If you test negative, you want to have a game plan about how you will continue to protect yourself in the future.
How can I protect against HIV?
Abstinence is the best way to protect against Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) including HIV. But if you choose to have sex, condoms are the best method to prevent against STDs. Find free condoms near you! Getting tested regularly and talking to your partner are also important steps in preventing STDs. And remember, HIV can also be spread through sharing needles. If you are getting a piercing or tattoo or using a needle, be sure it has been sterilized. People can also use PrEP, or pre-exposure prophylaxis, to prevent HIV. If someone is at high risk of HIV, they can take PrEP every day to help prevent HIV.